France to invest in defence, pursue Afghan mission

15th July 2009, Comments 0 comments

France remains committed to maintaining its defence budget and pursuing its mission in Afghanistan.

Paris – France remains committed to maintaining its defence budget and pursuing its mission in Afghanistan despite the pressure caused by the economic slowdown, President Nicolas Sarkozy said Tuesday.

Speaking to state television after the annual Bastille Day military parade down the Champs Elysees avenue in Paris, Sarkozy said the armed forces would receive new intelligence gathering and protective equipment.

"They know that we're going to make a great effort on their equipment. They will have all means to protect themselves in the battles that they will fight in," he said.

France, the president said, would invest EUR 377 billion (USD 527 billion) in new gear for its armed forces over the next 12 years in order to maintain and improve their capacity to take on 21st-century conflicts.

He added that France remained committed to the NATO mission in Afghanistan, despite a recent increase in attacks from an increasingly confident Taliban.

"It's practically a year, day for day, since 10 French soldiers were killed. It's a very difficult job they're doing over there. This is a country that needs to see its freedom restored," Sarkozy told France 2 television.

"We are not going to allow the return of the Taliban, who cut off the hands of young girls who wore nail varnish, who decided that girls couldn't go to school, who shut up women in the burka, who stoned so-called adulterers.

"We can't allow that," said.

Responding to concerns that a recent defence review will leave France with fewer troops and bases, Sarkozy said the new force would be better armed and protected and that the army had adapted with "brio" to the changes.

"The challenge for tomorrow is to have a France, with its 65 million people, recognised as a great power: That our voice be heard," he said.

The French senate is expected to vote on Wednesday to approve a five year military reform programme which will see 80 units abolished and 54,000 jobs cut among military and civilian defence staff.

AFP / Expatica

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